PARIS/LONDON • United States President Donald Trump has caused anger in France and Britain by suggesting looser gun laws could have helped prevent deadly attacks in Paris in 2015 and linking knife crime in London to a handgun ban.
In a speech to the National Rifle Association (NRA) on Friday, Mr Trump mimicked the shooting of victims in the Paris rampage and said if civilians had been armed, "it would have been a whole different story".
The French government issued its strongest criticism of Mr Trump since he took office and one minister urged the leader to apologise, at a time when President Emmanuel Macron has been reinforcing bilateral ties following a state visit.
"France expresses its firm disapproval of President Trump's comments about the Paris attacks on Nov 13, 2015, and demands that the memory of the victims be respected," the Foreign Office said in a statement.
"France is proud to be a country where acquiring and carrying firearms is strictly regulated."
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said he hoped Mr Trump would retract his words and "express regret".
"His comments are shocking and not worthy of the president of the world's greatest superpower," Mr Le Maire told BFM TV yesterday.
Other French politicians, including the mayor of Paris, took issue with Mr Trump's comments, after he acted out the scene of the massacre by extremists at Paris' Bataclan concert hall, where 90 of the 130 victims of the attacks died.
"They took their time and gunned them down one by one. Boom! Come over here. Boom! Come over here. Boom," Mr Trump said, using his hands in a gun gesture.
Mr Francois Hollande, who was French president at the time, said on Twitter that Mr Trump's remarks were "shameful" and "obscene".
Trauma surgeons in London, meanwhile, said Mr Trump had missed the point when, in the same speech, he linked knife crime there to an absence of guns.
Comments by Mr Trump have caused upset before in Britain. Relations with Prime Minister Theresa May cooled last year after she criticised him for retweeting anti-Islam videos by a British far-right group.
Mr Trump, who is due to visit Britain on July 13, told NRA members that a "once very prestigious" London hospital, which he did not name, had become overwhelmed with knife attack victims.
"They don't have guns. They have knives and instead, there is blood all over the floors of this hospital," he said. "They say it is as bad as a military war zone hospital. Knives, knives, knives, knives," he said, making stabbing gestures.
London suffered a spike in knife crime early this year, and saw more murders during February and March than New York.
Professor Karim Brohi, a trauma surgeon at the Royal London Hospital, said it was "ridiculous" to suggest that guns were part of the solution to knife violence.
"There is more we can all do to combat this violence, but to suggest that guns are part of the solution is ridiculous.
"Gunshot wounds are at least twice as lethal as knife injuries, and more difficult to repair," Prof Brohi said in a statement on Saturday.
Britain's government effectively banned handgun ownership in England, Scotland and Wales after a school shooting in 1996.